Wrong on Every Count! No. 1 – Individuals or Cattle?

The clock finally reached 13:00pm.  I palpably relaxed. Maybe it’s my Anglo-Saxon work ethic kicking in, but I am uneasy about the idea of drinking either inappropriately early, or indeed during the day on weekdays.  This was a Monday, and so it took some adjustment for me to get used to it [we were in Manchester to see OFF! playing, and unusually it was not a weekend show].  Nearby – the first pint, a more-ishly bitter pale ale.  To my left – DeHud and his chosen beer.  Outside the large windows, Manchester street life passed pleasantly by in the sunny, but nowhere near warm weather; students, workers on lunch break, and who knows what else.  Behind me, the bar displayed impressive rows of bottles from all over the world – Belgian beers, American Beers, whiskies.  The mid-day aroma of sweet, slightly stale beer hung in the air.  As I took a thirsty sip, the ley lines that supposedly converge on north western England suddenly focused their energies, and all was well with the world.

This moment, rather like the one when a millionaire extracts a fine Cohiba from his humidor and lights it for the first time on his yacht, was a great pleasure.  It was also the scene of an inpromptu Rip It Up board meeting, wherein the two of us gangly, ageing punks had stumbled upon the subject of Rip It Up’s first three months as an online publication.  What was good? How did it compare with the old, photocopied fanzine style of yore? What would we do next?  How we pondered.  We ended up with a few ideas, before the inevitable milestones of the day occurred: more beer, wobbly, lie down at hotel, punk rock, kebab, spill chilli sauce over new Vans, stumble drunkenly to bed.

The fanzine issues of Rip It Up back in the day were chaotic affairs, basically collecting our random, half baked thoughts, unconvincing views and poorly thought out arguments and presenting them in a dumb, fuck-you kind of style which interested few and impressed nobody.  Especially not girls.  Nothing we did seemed to impress girls.  But hey! We grew up on Maximum Rock ‘n ‘ Roll as our Punk Rock oracle.  Because founder Tim Yohannon and his merry band of eccentrics, Bay-Area ex-hippies and glue headed punks were never short of an opinion, they had LOTS OF COLUMNS.  And so THE COLUMN became a necessary, nay, mandatory part of any self respecting 1980s fanzine.  Most of these mini Daily Mail rants were bollocks.

That is to say most columnists in fanzines were indicative of the worst kind of people that were involved in ‘the scene’.  Self-righteous to the point of physical pain, their Taliban-like adherence to the basic principles of Veganism, Political Correctness, Anti War [not in any coherent sense, just a simple and endlessly repeated mantra that ‘War Is Bad], and of course anti any band or record label that dared to harbour any form of commercial ambition would inevitably be given an airing at any possible opportunity.

Yeah, by about 1993 I was so bored with reading the same old predictable crap that I drifted off from the punk scene for a while.  The same people were content to expound the same comfortable platitudes time and time again, all the time safe in the knowledge that:

a) they were preaching to, if not the converted, then at least an audience so scared of disagreeing and admitting that they held their OWN opinions, that they would never be challenged.

b) realising, a bit like the British Liberal Democrat party before they entered government, that whatever they said would never happen and thus their half baked ideology would never be subject to any truly rigorous scrutiny.

And all the time, they spewed forth the same platitudes in their columns:

INDIVIDUALITY [as long as you dress the same as me and like the same bands]

EQUALITY [but I’m mates with all the players in the scene so I get into shows ahead of you, sorry]

LIBERTY [except the freedom to hold an opinion that is not the same as mine]

…..aaaaay! Drooling mules! Gimme a frickin’ break already!

So, anyway, back to the story.  DeHud and I agreed that Rip It Up is threatening to become an online record review/news site, which is not really what we wanted.  Yes, we need to bring exciting new bands to the world’s attention, but we also need to bring back that challenging attitude that made the original publication such fun.  Irreverence, you could call it.  Hence the idea to include regular columns and even resurrect some of DeHud’s excellent cartoonage as well.  To make this thing complete, we’ll have to work a bit harder.  We celebrated this fact by finding another comfortably shabby bar, ordering up draughts of foaming ale, and adopting the haughty manner of a man whose greyhound has come in.

And that really is what leads me to the subject matter; the marrow, if you will of this column.  Diversity.  But not diversity in the sloganeering, know-nothing sense – diversity in the truly musical sense, which is something I hope that Rip It Up will come to stand for, a beacon of righteousness in the swamp of mediocrity.  You may already realise that we cover a range of musical styles – from the darkest doom metal, through crust punk, barking, circle-pit based straightedge, slow stoner rock and bouncy pop punk.  This is because we both love these kinds of music – nothing is off limits.  Yet I read so many webzines which define themselves purely by one little genre.  I mean, I actually read a statement on one of them recently that said ‘only thrash punk bands need contact us – no [repeat list above] accepted.  Fair enough, if that’s your thing, but we’re flying the flag for everything good.  For example, how can ALL thrash punk be good, and EVERYTHING else be bad, already? Do the math, dufus!

I really value various people who have made my musical education complete, and influenced me in positive ways.  Back in 1982, when I was still a goofy school kid, my pal Peter forced me [such was his, and soon my, excitement] to listen to this new American band on his stereo.  The band was Black Flag, and the album was Damaged.  Nothing, it is fair to say, was ever the same again.  The same thing happened again when DeHud, at about the same time, played me GBH.

Later, whilst living an idyllic life of beer and laziness as a student in Huddersfield, I became friends with an unlikely looking character who wore, initially at least, a pair of winklepickers and a paisley shirt, his hair a mass of curls.  Rich was a cat whose music collection was as absorbing to me as a sweet shop is to a small child.

As we became friends, Rich played me the Stooges, the MC5, the Moody Blues, The Fall, the Nuggets compilations, the Stones from their few respectable periods; he filled in all the gaps in my musical knowledge, in terms of where my favourite music had come from.  This enriched my soul, and opened my eyes to the path of Righteousness in rock’n’roll, a fact that I only became aware of when I later read Lester Bangs’ authoritative book ‘Psychotic Reactions and Carburettor Dung’.

What was so cool, however, was that Rich also dug punk rock and would often comment in his Sheffield accent about obscure bands on various compilations – such as Denmark’s Electric Deads.  Over the years he ditched the paisley and pointy boots, and adopted a uniform of white t-shirt, blue blouson, bleached jeans and plain black Dr Martens shoes – a kind of utilitarian anti fashion statement that would have made Mark E Smith proud.  Sadly I lost touch with Rich over the years, and have no idea what he is digging these days!

Then fast forward to the present day.  You only have to check out the fascinating ‘Now Playing’ thread on the forum of Sydney’s mighty Hard Ons to see what those guys are all about.  The Hard Ons are able to move in a single middle eight from bubblegum girly pop to all out death metal, and then back to a gorgeous harmonised chorus that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.  They listen to bands as diverse as Sun Ra, Cannibal Corpse, The Guess Who, Iron Maiden and, to quote lead singer/guitarist Blackie’s current rave,

“I’m obsessed with Os Mutantes at the moment!

So I hope you can see a little bit of the thinking behind Rip It Up.  Limiting yourself to one set of views, one type of music, well it’s up to you but that’s exactly the kind of behaviour that killed off the whole punk scene the last time around!

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2 comments on “Wrong on Every Count! No. 1 – Individuals or Cattle?

  1. Mykel Board was the only MRR columnist I bought the ‘zine for through the years, so yeah I know what you’re talking about. He was about the only one who never got to boring me by having a go at the same old slow moving targets. I liked Chris Boarts, Bruce Roehrs and Arwen Curry too (Her ‘zine Ration was fantastic. She is such a great writer), but Board was always my favorite.
    But punk, and even metal, completely bereft of politics or social commentary is kind of neutered. It just gets to be a bit much sometimes, the whole self righteous crustie/vegan/bourgeois anarchist thing. I mean really, personal identity politics don’t have to be THAT fucking personal, you know? Makes you wonder if they got their ideas from listening to old Crass records or from reading Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book. Not that there’s anything even remotely wrong with Crass, I just find it ironic that you see punks sporting patches from bands that were all about thinking for oneself…and they all think, dress, and sound alike politically.
    End rant.
    Great column Paul. Most notably because it got me to thinking. So much here in Cyberia fails at that. Keep up the great work. Can’t wait to see the next issue. Er, I mean post!

  2. Dave, thanks as always for the comment. If the column gets just one person to think and agree or disagree, then it is job done. I’ m also pleased when people remember the MRR days, Mykel’s arguments were always thought provoking, even if you didn’t always agree with him. Tim Yohannan always made a good read. But the old school guys and gals used to be readable because they were original. I mean, one of the best ‘new’ columnists was Ben Weasel because like you he was generally telling a story about his life experiences, but was not afraid to upset the prevailing opinions!

    So yeah, I am looking forward to doing this as a regular thing!

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